“Designers, more and more, have a kind of social role,” Jean-Charles de Castelbajac says over the chatter of a crowded café at the Crosby Street Hotel in New York’s Soho neighborhood. He’s in town to promote his new collaboration with the summer-centric brand Vilebrequin, for which he’s designed a line of women’s and men’s swim and ready-to-wear. Though his work has flown moderately under the radar, de Castelbajac has designed clothes for five decades, dressing the crème de la crème of celebrities and notable figures. This season, a few of his iconic and historic pieces were pulled to be featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute exhibition “Camp: Notes on Fashion.”
From designing revolutionary coats constructed out of stuffed teddy bears in 1989 to convincing Pope John Paul II, 500 bishops and 5,000 priests to wear his rainbow vestment designs in 1997, de Castelbajac’s impact on the history of fashion is vast. He even copyrighted the name Jesus for a line of denim called Jesus Jeans in 2007. He is a master of elegance, tightrope-walking the line where irony meets polish. As he says, “Et voilà.”
ONE37pm had the exclusive opportunity to sit with the 69-year-old designer as he divulged his fashion grievances, his greatest accomplishments and how he’s created a life of art and adoration.